Fir Wood

The firs that taper into twigs and wear

The rich blue green of summer all the year,

Softening the roughest tempest almost calm,

And offering shelter ever still and warm

To the small path that travels underneath,

Where loudest winds almost as summer’s breath

Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below,

When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow,

And sweet the music trembles on the ear

As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,

Makeshifts for leaves, and yet so rich they show

Winter is almost summer where they grow.
John Clare

The Wood is Sweet – poems of Clare selected by David Powell

Published by the John Clare Society


Autumn Birds

 

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The wild duck startles like a sudden thought

And heron slow as if it might be caught

The flopping crows on weary wing go bye

And grey beard jackdaws noising as they flye

The crowds of starnels wiz and hurry bye

And darken like a cloud the evening sky

The larks like thunder rise and suthy round

Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground

The wild swan hurrys high and noises loud

With white necks peering to the evening cloud

The weary rooks to distant woods are gone

With length of tail the magpie winnows on

To neighbouring tree and leaves the distant crow

While small birds nestle in the hedge below

 

John Clare

 

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Happy Yorkshire Day

On the day that the Yorkshire Dales Park extends into Lancashire, and the Lake District National Park extends so that the borders of the two parks come within spitting distance of one another, what better way of celebrating than by sharing a poem by Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson written in a Yorkshire dialect.

Nobbut God

First on, there was nobbut God, – Genesis 1, v 1., Yorkshire Dialect Translation.

 

 

First on

There was silence.

And God said:

‘Let there be clatter.’

 

The wind, unclenching,

Runs its thumbs

Along dry bristles of Yorkshire Fog.

 

The mountain ousel

Oboes its one note.

 

After rain

Water lobelia

Drips like a tap

On the tarn’s tight surface-tension.

 

But louder,

And every second nearer,

Like chain explosions

From furthest nebulae

Light-yearing across space:

The thudding of my own blood.

 

‘It’s nobbut me,’

Says God

 

Norman Nicholson

SEA TO THE WEST  (1981)

 

Batts by John Clare

I know not how batts propagate I have heard it asserted that they breed like mice but when I was a boy I was foolish enough to suppose they laid eggs like other birds & have often sought vainly to find them I remember there was an old ash tree in the Lordship with a woodpeckers hole in it of long standing a wryneck generally laid in it yearly & one year I swarmed up it to take the nest & on putting my hand into the hole I felt something different to what I usually met with so I hastily pulld it out when to my astonishment a multitude of batts followd in quick succession to the count of 20 or 30 I had not the hardihood to venture my hand into the hole again to satisfye my curiosity wether there was eggs in it but retreated down the tree as fast as I coud so it still remaind a mystery Batts are pleasing objects in the summer eves we usd to pull oft’ our hats when boys & keep bawling out ‘Bat bat come under my hat & I will give you a slice of bacon’ upon what superstitious notion it is founded I know not they hide in charnel vaults in steeples & old empty houses or barns it will steal its way into dairies were it feeds on the milk bacon or cheese like a mouse Collins in his delicious Ode to evening mentions it beautifully that I shall not venture to hunt up ‘other extracts to keep it company Now air is hushed save were the weak-eyd bat With short shrill shriek flits by on leatherback wing

 

NPG 1469; John Clare by William Hilton

by William Hilton, oil on canvas, 1820

The Water-Lilies

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The water-lilies on the meadow stream
Again spread out their leaves of glossy green;
And some, yet young, of a rich copper gleam,
Scarce open, in the sunny stream are seen,
Throwing a richness upon Leisure’s eye,
That thither wanders in a vacant joy;
While on the sloping banks, luxuriantly,
Tending of horse and cow, the chubby boy,
In self-delighted whims, will often throw
Pebbles, to hit and splash their sunny leaves;
Yet quickly dry again, they shine and glow
Like some rich vision that his eye deceives;
Spreading above the water, day by day,
In dangerous deeps, yet out of danger’s way.

John Clare

The miles go sliding by

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The miles go sliding by
Under my steady feet,
That mark a leisurely
And still unbroken beat,
Through coppices that hear
Awhile, then lie as still
As though no traveller
Ever had climbed their hill.
My comrades are the small
Or dumb or singing birds,
Squirrels, field things all
And placid drowsing herds.
Companions that I must
Greet for a while, then leave
Scattering the forward dust
From dawn to late of eve.

Ivor Gurney 

Ivor Gurney was probably the most original composer of his generation, but his music is harder to categorise than the music of Delius and his music is rarely performed.  His poetry too is not easy to categorise and takes unexpected turns.  A bit like life, really.